Essex Property Trust's (NYSE:ESS) earnings trajectory could turn positive as the stock climbs 3.0% this past week

In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But the risk of stock picking is that you will likely buy under-performing companies. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Essex Property Trust, Inc. (NYSE:ESS) shareholders, since the share price is down 25% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 38%. And the ride hasn't got any smoother in recent times over the last year, with the price 25% lower in that time.

On a more encouraging note the company has added US$467m to its market cap in just the last 7 days, so let's see if we can determine what's driven the three-year loss for shareholders.

See our latest analysis for Essex Property Trust

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

During the three years that the share price fell, Essex Property Trust's earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 1.6% each year. This reduction in EPS is slower than the 9% annual reduction in the share price. So it seems the market was too confident about the business, in the past.

You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. This free interactive report on Essex Property Trust's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Essex Property Trust, it has a TSR of -18% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

We regret to report that Essex Property Trust shareholders are down 22% for the year (even including dividends). Unfortunately, that's worse than the broader market decline of 17%. Having said that, it's inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 2% per year over half a decade. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Essex Property Trust better, we need to consider many other factors. Even so, be aware that Essex Property Trust is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

But note: Essex Property Trust may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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